The Tree of Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Fictional Romance Fantasy


It is all about Mary and her fight to save a tree. Not any old tree but the one her Grandfather brought back with him from World War 1.

Submitted: October 31, 2017

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Submitted: October 31, 2017

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MARY looked out of her window at the tree which dominated the bottom of the garden. It was very tall with lots of strong branches subdividing into many smaller branches leading to a huge canopy of twigs. It was very impressive but what made it different from all the other local trees was the way the pale grey bark of its trunk peeled away naturally showing its inner light-green surface.  This was no ordinary British oak or ash or elm; this tree was special. It was a Plane tree all the way from France.

A few days earlier, on her sixtieth birthday, Mary had hugged the tree as she had done on all her birthdays, and this year for the first time in many a year she could touch her fingers around the trunk. The other most worrying change was the missing mass of green leaves which by now should have covered the whole tree making sunbathing anywhere at the bottom of the garden impossible. A tear came to her eye.

 

“Am I getting bigger or is the trunk getting thinner? What is happening? What have they done to my tree?”

 

Since the new school had been built she had problems with children climbing and breaking the branches but it was a letter from the local council that really upset her. It read –

 

Dear Madam,

We have to inform you of a link between the constructional damage of the Oakfield School building and the tree growing on your property. We have been advised by our legal department that we have the right to address any cause of damage to our property or buildings by any exterior force. Therefore we give you notice that on the 5th June we intend to fell the tree and remove its offending roots.

Yours on behalf of the Council…………

 

 

“They can’t do that, can they David?”

 

She asked her husband throwing the letter into his lap.

He knew that no matter what he said she would not let anyone touch the tree.

 

 

That was three months ago. In her fight to save the tree, she had contacted several organisations for backing including the National Tree Council, National Trust, Prince Charles, every local ‘green’ group, even the French Embassy but with not much success. She even chained herself to the local Town Hall gates. It was only when she walked down the main shopping street wearing only a few leaves covering the delicate parts of her body that the local press got interested and then they failed to mention the tree. She had become obsessed with the tree and seeing her nearly naked photo on the front page of the local paper was the last straw for her husband. He was rushed into the hospital complaining of chest pains. The doctors advised a short stay and that a spell of rest with care and no excitement would help him make a complete recovery. At his bedside, Mary promised that she would behave and accept the inevitable. The tree would have to come down.

 The next day she called in and sat by his hospital bed lifting his hand in hers she said “Sorry”.

Still looking into his tired eyes she continued,

“I have put this tree, this mere lump of wood before the person that’s looked after me all these years” she kissed his hand.

 

He knew she loved him. He also knew that the tree was important. David licked his dry lips and strained a few words.

“A man called to see me earlier” he stopped and wet his lips once more “He talked about the tree and said that everything would be all right.”

 

“What man?” she said in a loud tone. 

Then realising she was supposed to keep things calm. She held back her aggression and spoke quietly “Was he from the Council?”

 

“No, I don’t think so!” He said half closing his eyes “I can’t remember his name, but” he licked his lips again. “He mentioned someone who was in school with you!” he coughed and closed his eyes.

 

David remembered back to the first time Mary had taken him down the garden to see the tree and the story she told him about how her grandfather had brought the sapling back from France. How he had found it under the steel helmet of one of his dead friends at the battle of the Somme and about the promise he made to all of those wasted lives in that muddy pointless war. He would grow the tree for the sake of love.

Mary had helped her Grandfather look after the tree and over the years she watched it grow. She held her grandfather’s hand as he carved his and his wife’s initials in the bark. She recalled him saying “It’s the tree of love”. She was there when her father carved his and her mother’s initials.

David remembers Mary rather sheepishly showing him the initials of her first boyfriend, M D, the one who promised to be with her always. He watched her face change as she told him the story of how he went away to university without saying goodbye. It was the only time she ever wanted to chop down the tree.

The death of her grandfather rekindled the memories of the war and of other people’s pain and this strengthened her resolve in caring for the tree and for ‘fighting for peace’. That’s when he met her. He was a policeman on riot duty near a local American Air Force base when she knocked off his helmet before being dragged away in a police van. They met again on the steps of the courthouse where she persuaded him to join her for a cup of coffee. She was so fresh, lively and bubbly. He fell in love with her there and then but it took a further six years before he was shown the tree. They married after he left the Police. He wasn’t sure at first where he fitted in, regarding the tree that is, as he had never been offered to carve his initials in the trunk. It wasn’t until the death of Mary’s father that he was taken down the garden. Grandfather’s penknife was now hers and through floods of tears, with his help, they carved their initials in the tree.

 

The day David was coming out of the hospital was the same day the Council were coming to chop down the tree, so she was glad that she wasn’t going to be there. By the time she was home the tree had gone except for a large tractor, on the school side of the fence, digging out the roots which were more difficult to remove than planned.

She looked out of the kitchen window and without looking back said

“I will be able to sunbathe in the garden now.”

She kept looking out of the window.

David knew she was crying and came and put his arms around her shoulders.

“It will be all right. That young chappie said it will be….”

 

“You and that young chappie” she screeched. “How can a young chappie know anything about war and death?” she sobbed “How can that young chappie have known me in school?” she turned to see her husband slump down in a chair.

 

“Oh David, I’m sorry” she leaned over him. “Are you, all right?

 

He nodded.

 

A month later, amongst the morning post, was a smart looking envelope covered in gold writing. Mary saw and recognised the emblem of the Council and immediately started to tear it up when David asked to see it.

Carefully opening the outer envelope he removed a card from inside and read it out aloud,

 

“Mr and Mrs Roach are cordially invited to the grand opening of the Oakfield School’s ‘new foyer’ at 4 pm on Tuesday the 12th September. A new metal sculpture, specially commissioned by the Council, will be unveiled by the Mayor in the presence of the artist. It’s signed by Brian Donaldson, Headmaster.

 

“That’s kind of them”.

 

“Kind of them?” Mary said quietly, biting her tongue.

 

“It shows that they hold no malice,” David said pointing the card at her.

 

“What do you mean by that?” She asked questioning his choice of words.

 

“Well, you did send nasty worded letters to every member of the Council every month for a year.” He said.

“How did you know about that?” She moved forward trying to grab the card.

He hid the card behind his back “Mary, I want all of this to end before it’s the end of us.” He said looking at her. “I want you to come with me to this event.”

“Why should I?” she stood there defiant with both hands on her hips waiting for an answer.

“Well, for one thing, I believe the young man that came to see me in the hospital was Brian Donaldson the Head Master and he sounded very sincere when he spoke to me about the tree and ...”

“Did you say, Donaldson?”

“Yes. So you do know this young man?”

“No, but I have a suspicion that I knew his father.”

“How wonderful!”

“No, not wonderful at all if it’s Mr Goody two shoes, Michael Donaldson.”

It suddenly dawned on David that his initials were MD. “Not the MD on the tree?”

“Yes.”

“Oh! I am sorry I read the card now” David said handing it over to her. “You tear it up.”

“Tear it up? No way. I am going to see what kind of child he has brought into this world and give this ‘young chappie’ of yours a personal message for his father”.

 

Mary and David were greeted at the door of the school by the Headmaster who seemed overjoyed at seeing them. He introduced them to the Mayor and other Council members who Mary looked at with a stern face but so far she was obeying her husband’s request not to say or do anything that would make him ill. They got to meet the teachers and a large group of children who really got excited about seeing them and greeted them as if they were film stars.

The Mayor cut the ribbon to open the ‘new foyer’ which everyone then entered. It was built out of plastic and glass like a huge conservatory allowing the sun to fill every part of the building especially the massive purple curtain draped over the ‘new metal sculpture’. The Headmaster came forward and spoke a little about the afternoon’s event. He said he was initially approached by the children who felt sad about having their favourite tree chopped down. Mary’s head turned towards the children and a little smile appeared on her face. The Headmaster then said that he mentioned the episode, just in passing, to his father who amazingly knew all about the tree.

“After my father’s detailed history I asked the children to come up with an idea,” the Headmaster said. He then turned and looked at the purple curtain “they were so taken by the story of how Mr Hopkins found the mere sapling on the battlefield that they came up with …..” he turned back towards the audience “but before I let you see what the children designed I would like to introduce you to the man who built it, a man who knows a bit about conflicts and battles as he fought in the Falklands war, my father, Dr Michael Donaldson.”

The children clapped as a large tall man in a grey suit emerged from a dark corner; you could see by his movements he was struggling to walk, using his arms for balance he slowly progressed forward. Mary recognised the face and stepped towards him and offered her arm. Together they approached the clapping crowd.

Once more the Headmaster spoke, “My Father will now unveil his creation.”

Michael was handed a string. He turned slowly towards the patiently waiting audience. Then in a slow, mature voice said: “War only makes famous Generals”. He moved his weight from one leg to the other and placed his arm around Mary’s shoulders “It is the people that war hurts the most. Let us teach our youth to grow with love in their hearts, like a tree and offer a branch of friendship for all of mankind.”

He looked into Mary’s eyes and she could see a tear start to form.

Michael placed Mary’s hand on the string and they both pulled together. The purple curtain dropped to reveal a large stainless steel replica of a tree with its many branches spreading high into the roof. Because of the shiny material, it was made from it sparkled from top to bottom. The kids all went “Wooow!” and then clapped.

Michael lifted his hand and the place fell silent. “As you can see by the initials on the trunk, this tree is dedicated to Mary for keeping alive her Grandfather’s dream. You children wanted this tree to be available to everyone for the promotion of love and happiness so I have built the branches in such a way that messages of love can be locked to them for eternity …..”

From his pocket, he produced a metal plate which he handed over to Mary. He leaned forward and whispered in her ear “This poem was written by your husband, it’s very good, you should be proud of him”

 

 She took the plate and read it.

 “Your Grandfather grew the tree

To make people like you and me

Understand the complexity 

Of existing with others peacefully

………… I will love you forever, David.”

 

Mary motioned with her hand for David to join her and as he approached, she gave him a little kiss on his cheek, bringing applause from the watching crowd and a tear to Mary’s eye. 

Arm in arm they approached the tree and together skilfully locked the poem on to ‘the tree of love’.


© Copyright 2018 Germanica Jones. All rights reserved.

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